Hotel Rwanda - an Award-Winning Film by Terry George
Hotel Rwanda is an award-winning film by Terry George, which is based on a historical fact. While writing a plot, the director consulted people who experienced everything together with other Rwandans. Telling a story of Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager, the film director manages to address numerous social problems both on macro and micro levels.
One of the biggest issues in the film is obviously crime. As the revolt breaks out, people start violently murdering other people, including children. What makes the situation even worse is that this is almost fratricide because both victims and offenders are citizens of the same country, so they kill their neighbors, colleagues, and friends. Apart from killing people, Hutus also rob them. For instance, when Hutus want to shoot Paul’s neighbors, they agree to exchange big money and Tutsis’ property for their lives. There are also many examples of cigarette and alcohol smuggling in the film. While hundreds of people are suffering from lack of food and fresh water in the hotel, others are drinking high quality wine and smoke expensive cigarettes.
Hotel Rwanda also shows crime on a macro level. When the revolt begins, Tutsis inform UN and ask for help. Nevertheless, other countries do not react. Paul’s hopes rest on his western friends, but they do not support him. There are some foreign soldiers in the country, but this is not enough to fight back hundreds of Hutus. Eventually, soldiers evacuate immigrants, but Rwandans are supposed to deal with the situation themselves. Such a decision is obviously predetermined by political issues. However, for all those innocent people and many people outside the country, it is hard to understand why UN opted for such a passive policy. In his conversation with UN peacekeeper, Paul hears a phrase, which can explain it. He says that, if Paul looked at him and his fellow citizens from the western perspective, he would have understood why western community remained inactive: “You're black. You're not even a nigger. You're an African” (Hotel Rwanda). Obviously, helping people in Africa was not politically advantageous to other countries, so no one volunteered to stop this huge crime. There is one short moment in the film, which deserves special attention. When Hutus arrive to the hotel to take away all the Tutsis, Paul is desperately trying to find some help. He makes a call to someone, and suddenly invaders leave. When asked whom he called, Paul says that he spoke to the French president because the French were “the ones arming and supplying the army” (Hotel Rwanda). This scene proves that western countries in reality could stop the genocide if they wanted. Such an issue is of unparalleled importance because it questions not only world’s readiness to fight discrimination but the very purpose of international organizations’ existence. Any other country could be in Rwanda’s place, and if such powerful organizations cannot help people in the moments of trouble, then no one else can.
As one can see from the film, those who witness the revolt cannot stay indifferent. Colonel is doing everything he can to postpone the moment of Rwanda’s destruction. Here, the film makers raise another social issue: the ability to obey authority regardless of personal desires and thoughts. While Colonel would like to have more soldiers to calm Hutus down, he says that they are “peace-keepers”, not “peace-makers”, and the order was not to intervene (Hotel Rwanda). Therefore, they cannot interfere with country’s policy and introduce their own rules, and soldiers can only use their weapon for protection, not for attacks. While sometimes, it is problematic to respect someone’s authority, it might be equally difficult for authorities to make subordinates recognize their power. Knowing that he is a privileged Hutu, one of Paul’s workers is acting inappropriately. However, being a wise and sensible man, Paul finds a way to solve the misunderstanding without creating new ones.
Another issue one has to focus on is interpersonal relationships in terms of social unrest. Here, each person has to be very careful in choosing a side because the price to pay is very high – own life. If some Hutus are against the revolt, they have to follow the crowd; otherwise, they will be killed just like Tutsis. Tutsis, too, have sacrifices to make. For instance, in the beginning of the film, when Paul’s friends are hiding in his house, he risks his and his family’s lives. A similar situation happens when his wife’s nieces are lost ? they have to choose whether to look for them and endanger their own lives, or escape. In terms of terror, one might have to resort to things he or she would probably never do under the normal circumstances. Paul realizes that he will not cope with the problem on his own, so he has to please the authorities, which is obviously below his dignity. Nevertheless, it helps him save his family and numerous lives of other people and, eventually, become a national hero.
The next issue addressed in Hotel Rwanda is leadership. It goes without saying that every group of people, no matter how big it is, must have a good leader. This need becomes especially strong during hard times. Everyone understands that without Paul, Tutsis are doomed. From the very beginning, Paul appears to be a wise and respected man. As a manager, he honestly handles all his tasks, and he is in good terms with people in authority because he knows that one day, he might need their help. It is unbelievably hard to control people under such circumstances, but he sets a good example (although there are moments in the film when he thinks he can no longer bear it), and he boosts hope of those tired and despaired people around him. Although he understands that to be a good manager, a man has to follow his mind, not his heart, Paul always stays kind-hearted even if he knows the consequences might be deleterious. For example, he agrees to give shelter to small children and then many more people, who have no other place to go, despite the fact that the hotel is already crowded. Paul is also an outstanding leader because he has needs of the society prior to his own. His most self-sacrificing deed is when he leaves his wife and children to help everyone else; even though he knows he might die. Paul is also a prominent diplomat and strategic thinker. He calls all his friends abroad and makes all residents do the same, hoping that the world will not remain inactive: “You must phone everyone you know overseas…You must shame them into action” (Hotel Rwanda). Moreover, his idea is to make the world think that the hotel is full of wealthy people, not poor men, women, and children, who are going to die soon because he is convinced that the West is not going to help such people. It is worth mentioning that Paul is a Hutu himself, so he could simply take his family and escape in the very beginning, but he is a real hero for he cannot leave his people in need.
Social issues brought up in the film are discrimination and, of course, racism. Rwandans were divided into Tutsis – they were the upper class- and Hutus – these were the lower – by Belgians. The separation was based on the appearance: the lightness of skin color, the breadth of nostrils, etc. Not only was it absurd, but also very subjective. When two men in the film are trying to guess which woman belongs to which caste considering at their appearances, they fail to do it. What is even more striking is that Rwandans were divided by Belgians, but they fought each other. Hutus use the assassination of the president as the reason to start their appalling act, but it is obvious that they have been planning it long before and were only waiting for the suitable moment to come. There are armed militia representatives in every neighborhood to make sure that no Tutsi escapes. Paul’s friends try to tell him that something horrible is going to happen, but he ignores them, hoping that his Western friends will stop Hutus. However, one day Hutus call everyone to “cut the trees”, and everything starts. It is important also to analyze Hutus motives. Although they say that this is their response to former discrimination, it is obvious that there is something else – they want to have power and rule the country. There probably is a small group of people driven by political aims, and they planned the action beforehand. Since they are armed, everyone else feels like they do not have other choice than to kill Tutsis.
To sum up, Hotel Rwanda is definitely worth seeing. Despite the fact that the film cannot possibly be absolutely realistic, and the truth is even more shocking, it shows numerous social problems such as crime and racism, genocide and political inactivity, quench for power and leadership and so on. Apart from that, the main hero of the film, Paul Rusesabagina is an example of human kindness, sympathy, and self-sacrifice. Being a wise leader, he shows that one person really can make a difference and that there is hope even in the darkest times.